By Michael YEGHIAYAN
Fans of jazz will have the opportunity to experience the music of a number of local jazz icons on Aug. 28 and 29 at the Pasadena Jazz Fest.
Sponsored by redwhite + bluezz, the event will feature a number of jazz legends, many of whom call the Los Angeles area their home.
Among those at the center of the festival will be bassist Byron Miller, who will be playing some of the material from his unreleased new CD. The venue for the Jazz Fest, held at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden and expected to hold around 5,000 people, will provide a crowd significantly larger than the typical jazz club. However, Miller’s career has made him no stranger to large venues.
“I like to mix it up; it’s good to be intimate. It’s also good to play in front of lots of people and hear that roar. I’ve played in small clubs and loved it and been a member of Santana and played in front of thousands and loved it. To a real musician, it doesn’t matter. We don’t like to play to empty seats. Packed and small, packed and large, it’s all good.”
Regulars to redwhite + bluezz on Thursday evenings will immediately recognize Miller’s personality and unmistakable contributions as a world-class bassist. At the Pasadena Jazz Fest, he will be contributing with a number of different roles, acting as a producer and musical director in addition to joining the redwhite + bluezz All-Stars on stage in a tribute to Michael Jackson.
“You have to separate your roles during an event like this,” said Miller. “As a promoter, you are looking at sound, lights, security, which has nothing to do with the music. Then as a musical director, I have to make sure that every single musician is getting what they need during the show, all while taking care of my band and performing.”
As a Pasadena local, Miller has also witnessed the growth and evolution of the local jazz scene. In recent years, jazz has taken on a larger portion of the musical culture of the greater Los Angeles area and jazz enthusiasts have formed a growing and dedicated following to live music.
“The scene in Pasadena is great and getting better. A lot of great musicians live here, which means that on any given night you can come in redwhite + bluezz or other jazz clubs and see incredible talent. It’s a spot that musicians want to play at and look forward to.”
This sentiment is shared by another local mainstay in the Jazz community, James Tormé. The vocalist and son of musical legend Mel Tormé is a contributor to musical renaissance Jazz is experiencing in the area.
“The amount of jazz around here is really underrepresented, and thankfully growing,” claimed Tormé. “There is a tremendous amount of talent in California. It is up to the next generation of musicians to expand our fan base and bring jazz to the forefront of popular music again.”
Tormé sees the key to rebuilding jazz music’s popularity in readapting the adage of the past greats, the most important being rejecting the concept of style over substance.
“It needs to be all about the music. Today it seems to be more about swagger and
less about content. The old world way of doing things, my father’s way of doing things, was making it all about the music. Jazz is the greatest of American art forms, and we need to put it back on top where it belongs.”
In achieving this, Tormé makes no secret of the fact that jazz musicians must support each other in order to achieve success.
“We stick together in jazz. A lot of us really work as a little family of local musicians and work together to keep our genre new and edgy and fresh while servicing our existing audience.”